Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Kognitive Sprachforschung

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Abstract Sambre

Definitions as blends in complex cognitive domain matrices

Research question(s) - This paper offers a usage-based analysis of constituency (Langacker 1987: 487) in definitions of the word Internet. More precisely, it provides a methodological model for dealing with nominal constituency in corpus-based nominal definientia considered as blends.

Approach – The analysis is cognitively inspired, usage-based and quantitative. It is based on about 1000 definitions of the word Internet as this word first appeared in approximately 150 texts of 10 Belgian magazines, both Flemish and French (1991-1994). The corpus is analyzed by means of a relational database based on cognitive parameters.

Method – We combine Langacker’s (1987) and Croft & Clausner’s (1999) idea of (lexical) concepts as complex domain matrices. Definientia can then be described as blends (Fauconnier & Turner 2002) composed of nine static, sometimes layered, dimensions or ways-of-seeing (Croft & Cruse 2004) in the definiens side of the material examined. Theoretically, the nominal constituency of the blends is described in terms of a dynamic yet structured unfolding of subsets of this static model through time. Methodologically, we integrate analytic parameters offered by cognitive linguistics in a relational database and code them in a way similar to linear mathematical matrices. The matrix variation at intraclause, intratextual and intertextual levels allows an analysis of contextual and onomasiological variation, and their entrenchment.

Results – Constituency can be described quantitatively as a blend of different kinds of information in the domain matrix: constituency shows variable constellations and orders of ways-of-seeing, dimensions and layers expressed by the onomasiology of definientia. Salience within the blend can be quantitatively redefined in terms of relative frequency (Geeraerts et al. 1994) both from a static and a dynamic perspective, and takes into account the linguistic and genre variation. This paper takes seriously the call for a combination of cross-linguistic corpus linguistics and cognitive linguistics. Its focus on the dynamic aspects of conceptualization shows the systematic creativity caused by the assemblage of at first sight incompatible input spaces.



Croft, William & D. Allan Cruse. 2004. Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Croft, William & Timothy C. Clausner. 1999. Domains and image schemas. Cognitive Linguistics. 10-1. 1-31.

Fauconnier, Gilles and Mark Turner. 2002. The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books.

Langacker, Ronald. 1987. Foundations of Cognitve Grammar. Vol. 1: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford: Stanford University Press.